Harman Patil (Editor)

Biosecurity in New Zealand

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Biosecurity in New Zealand guards against threats to agriculture and biodiversity with strict border control measures being taken to prevent unwanted organisms from entering the country.


New Zealand is an island nation that is geographically isolated from any significant landmass. For this reason the species that are present evolved in the absence of organisms from elsewhere and display a high degree of endemism. Notable is the lack of land based mammals, except for two species of bat. Indigenous species are at risk from population decline or extinction if any invasive species are introduced.

The Biosecurity Act 1993, which was a world first for biosecurity control, was passed to "restate and reform the law relating to the exclusion, eradication, and effective management of pests and unwanted organisms". The Ministry for Primary Industries is the government department in charge of overseeing New Zealand's biosecurity.

The planned National Animal Identification and Tracing for livestock is touted to have beneficial effects on New Zealand's biosecurity.

Border controls

As well as biosecurity border controls where there is international passenger and freight movement, government officials have also carried out biosecurity controls within the country.

At sea and airports cargo, passengers and passenger baggage is checked for unwanted organisms. Any that is found is incinerated. Passengers must sign a declaration form stating that they do not have anything that constitutes a biosecurity risk to New Zealand. At border control locations such as airports beagles are used for detecting material that constitutes a biosecurity risk because they are relatively small and less intimidating for people who are uncomfortable around dogs, easy to care for, intelligent and work well for rewards.

If there is a threat of the spread of unwanted organisms within New Zealand containment measures are carried out. Didymo, an invasive algae that was discovered in New Zealand in 2004, has been the subject of a nationwide campaign to prevent its spread. To prevent the spread of the spores of kauri dieback disease it is recommended that pathways in the forests are used and equipment should be cleaned before leaving an area where there are kauri trees.

Notable incursions

There have been a number of biosecurity breaches in New Zealand, and on occasion widespread eradications of pest organisms have been carried out.

  • the Painted apple moth was discovered in Auckland in 1999. A biocontainment area was set up and a controversial spray programme carried out to eradicate the moth.
  • The Varroa mite was thought to have become established in New Zealand due to a queen bee being smuggled into the country.
  • The plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (PSA), which affects kiwifruit, is thought to have arrived in New Zealand 18 months prior to observed symptoms of the disease.
  • In May 2005 a hoax claim was made that foot and mouth disease had been released on Waiheke Island and would be released elsewhere unless money was paid and tax reforms made. A full agricultural exotic disease response was initiated. No livestock were allowed to enter or leave the island and stock on the island was tested every 48 hours for symptoms of the virus, which would devastate New Zealand's agricultural exports. After three weeks of testing, no infected animals were detected and the response staff were stood down.


    Biosecurity in New Zealand Wikipedia